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Monday, September 12, 2011

Isaac Kashdan

Isaac Kashdan (19 November 1905,– 20 February 1985)
Kashdan vs. Horowitz

was one of the world's best players in the late 1920s and early 1930s. He was twice US Open Champion (1938, 1947) and played five times for the United States in chess Olympiads, winning a total of nine medals, and his Olympiad record is the all-time best among American players. Kashdan was often called 'der Kleine Capablanca' (The little Capablanca) in Europe because of his ability to extract victories from seemingly even positions.  Alekhine named Kashdan as one of the most likely players to succeed him as World Champion. Unfortunately Kashdan could not pursue a chess career for financial reasons because his peak chess years coincided with the Great Depression. During that time he was earning a living as an insurance agent.  Some of his small ads can be found in Chess Review magazine of the period.  In the 1940’s one of his children had serious health problems which resulted in a move to California because of its better climate and this put him even further away from the center of chess activity which was mostly in New York City.

Career highlights:


1930
Frankfurt: second place behind  Nimzovich
Stockholm: First
Gyor: First
Defeated Lajos Steiner in a match (+5 -3 =2)
Lost a match against Gosta Stoltz (+2 -3 =1).
New York City: defeated Charles Jaffe by 3-0

1931
New York: finished second behind Capablanca
Bled: tied for 4-7th places.
Hastings 1931/32: 2nd behind Salo Flohr.

1932
Mexico City: =1st  Alekhine
Pasadena: second place behind Alekhine
London 1932: 3rd-4th places

1934
Syracuse: finished 2nd behind Reshevsky
U.S. Open Chess Championship / Western Open, Chicago: tie for 5-6th places, with Reshevsky and Reuben Fine sharing the title.

1935
U.S. Open Chess Championship, Milwaukee placed 3rd

1938
U.S. Open Championship: =1st with Horowitz
Kashdan tied for 2nd-4th places in the 1947 U.S. Open and finished 2nd in 1948 a half a point behind Weaver Adams.

Kashdan never won the U.S. (Closed) Championship.  Arnold Denker and stated that "from 1928 onwards, Kashdan was clearly the best player in the United States, but the aging Frank Marshall was attached to his title. Kashdan "bargained and haggled with Frank for years until Marshall voluntarily relinquished the crown. The result: the first modern U.S. Championship tournament in 1936. But by this time, Reuben Fine and Samuel Reshevsky had surpassed Kashdan.”

U.S. Championships:
5th in 1936 (Reshevsky winning)
3rd in 1938 (Reshevsky winning)
3rd in 1940 (Reshevsky winning his third straight title)
tied for 1st-2nd with Reshevsky in 1942.  Kashdan  lost the play-off match (+2 −6 =3)
2nd in 1946 behind Reshevsky
tied 1st-2nd in 1948 with Herman Steiner but lost the playoff match.

Kashdan would have been U.S. champion in 1942, but lost out to Reshevsky when the Tournament Director, L. Walter Stephens, incorrectly forfeited Denker after Reshevsky exceeded the time limit.  In this infamous incident Stephens picked up the clock and turned it around so that the clocks were facing opposite sides and then declared Denker forfeited. Despite howls of protest from Denker and a group of spectators, Stephens refused to change his decision.  When asked, Reshevsky replied, “It’s not my decision.”

Kashdan drew 5-5 in a match against Horowitz in 1938. and won at Havana 1940.  He tied 2nd-4th in the New York State Championship in 1941.  In the famous Radio Match of 1945 against the Soviet Union,  Kashdan lost both of his games against Alexander Kotov. In Hollywood 1945, Kashdan placed 5th.  In 1946  the American team traveled to Moscow for a rematch against the Soviet team, and Kashdan again played Kotov and won 1.5-0.5.

In a Master event organized by the Manhattan Chess Club in 1948, Kashdan finished 2nd behind George Kramer but the 1948 New York International, Kashdan only scored 4-5 and tied for 7-8th place.

In the U.S. Open Chess Championship, Kashdan tied for first with Larry Evans in 1951 and in 1952 in Hollywood he only managed a 4-5 score and finished 7th.

By this time it was apparent that he was no longer a top competitor and his final event was the 1955 match in Moscow against the USSR where he scored only 1-1/2 out of 4 games against Mark Taimanov.

Kashdan was awarded the GM title in 1954, and the International Arbiter title in 1960.

In 1933, Kashdan, in partnership with Horowitz, founded Chess Review magazine and several years later sold his interest to Horowitz.  Kashdan was the leditor of the Los Angeles Times chess column from 1955 until 1982, when he suffered a disabling stroke.

As an arbiter he directed many chess tournaments, including the two Piatigorsky Cup tournaments of 1963 (at Los Angeles) and 1966 (at Santa Monica). Kashdan also helped to organize the series of Lone Pine tournaments in the 1970s, which were sponsored by Louis Statham.

Although ratings were not introduced formally until 1970 by FIDE the site chessmetrics.com calculates Kashdan's peak rating at 2742 in 1932. Kashdan was #2 in the world from November 1932 until June 1934, behind only world champion Alekhine. Kashdan was in the top five players for more than four years, from December 1930 until February 1935, the period of his greatest top-class activity. However, the chessmetrics database is missing several of Kashdan's important results from this period.
After this time, the rise of Reshevsky and Fine somewhat eclipsed Kashdan among the top American players. Kashdan was a powerful tactician, but that his real strength was in the endgame, and that he was very strong with the two bishops. However, Denker also pointed out that "the slightest touch of rigidity" occasionally crept into Kashdan's play, as he sometimes resorted to artificial maneuvers to obtain the two bishops.  Lack of top-class practice after the mid-1930s, due to economic imperatives, led to Kashdan's gradual slide from the elite.
Some tactical puzzles from of Kashdan’s games can be found HERE

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